The AP reports on what they say is the first wave of bloggers to be credentialed for the Republican National Convention next month. Anick Jesdanun writes that the GOP plans to limit credentials to 20 or less bloggers:
Republican convention spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said his party plans to give media credentials to 10 to 20 bloggers. … Though Alcivar said he did not know how many bloggers got invitations this week, he expected additional ones will be invited based on how many accept by Thursday.
Alcivar refused to provide a list of invited bloggers, saying the party does not disclose traditional media who are approved for credentials, either. He said the list reflected a mix of ideologies and consisted of “those who we believe are moderate in their tone.”
Actually, as one of the first few bloggers to receive a credential and confirm it, the GOP reticence to disclose our identities seems a bit unusual. No one told us to keep it quiet — at least no one told me — and I assume the GOP won’t mind the promotion. In fact, getting out the first wave of credentials during the Democratic convention makes for a pretty good counterstrategy against the attention that DNC bloggers will receive this week. Had I been handling the press corps, I would have released the names of the bloggers, a few each day, as they confirmed, just to keep the suspense and attention away from the Democrats’ hate-in at Fleet Center.
The slow roll-out accounts for the lack of blogosphere proclamations of acceptance, something I found puzzling. I had assumed that the RNC made all of the decisions regarding blogger credentialing at once. Michele at A Small Victory even gets a mention in the report (shame on the AP for not providing the hyperlink!), as does Brian Reich, a former Gore operative that perhaps the GOP chose for balance. (Again, no hyperlink, and I don’t recognize the name.) But the GOP says that they need to see how many from the first round confirms before the deadline on Thursday to determine how many more they can invite on the second round:
Democrats approved credentials for about three dozen bloggers out of some 200 applicants. They rescinded approvals for another 20, blaming a computer gaffe. To avoid such problems, Alcivar said, Republicans opted to invite bloggers in smaller waves.
Because of time constraints, staffers sought out bloggers to invite rather than initiating an open application process, he said.
This explains a few puzzling things about the process. Because I also contribute to Blogs For Bush, I received notice of the GOP effort at the beginning of last month and an invitation to apply for one of the spots. This did not get publicized, and some blogs felt slighted by the lack of an open application process. However, the DNC’s effort taught the GOP a few lessons, first of which was that bloggers don’t have expense accounts and need at least three weeks lead time in order to make reasonable travel arrangements. Bill at INDC Journal got stiffed on both the failure to that that through and the second lesson learned by the GOP, which is to make sure you’ve vetted your invitees prior to extending the invitation. The DNC rescinded his invitation the day after Bill — an excellent blogger — spent hundreds of dollars on non-refundable accommodations to get to Boston.
So the GOP had to create a process where they could make sure that they knew who they invited, their content, and their viewpoint, while waiting to see how many people would express an interest. Given the time constraints (they launched this effort at the time when the DNC announced their own blogger program), they opted for a closed selection process. In 2008, they will have plenty of time for a more open process in which all bloggers interested can throw their hats in the ring, but they made a reasonable decision under a lot of time pressure. And since they’ve apparently not completed their invitation list, perhaps some bloggers can still send in letters of interest.
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UPDATE: Bloggers so far are the biggest story of the convention, it appears. USA Today’s Mark Memmott writes a long feature article just to tell us that the story is overrated:
The arrival of the bloggers is perhaps the most overcovered media story of the convention so far. Chosen by party officials from about 200 bloggers who applied for media credentials, those now here have been welcomed by organizers as full-fledged members of the press. It’s the first time online commentators and diarists have been admitted to a political convention. Republican officials are considering doing the same at their convention in a month.
The LA Times takes a different tack — if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It won’t be long before every major news outlet has its own blog, although most will have editors to turn them into mush. In fact, Lisa Stone’s blog at the LAT already resembles that, combining the pointless arcanity of the worst of live-blogging with hardly any attempt at analysis.